Three Poems

By: Quintin Collins

pluto be orbit uncommon

i be dead            been dead           been dying        been death

god       i been a body bounce round the sun        been a body

celestial    outside earth atmosphere             the scientist say

at most been asteroid                           say i ain’t been a body

worth measure                say i got ocean beneath my skin

say my brain is full of ice             say i be cold     say i be dead

say i be dead to neptune      but water say life          on mars

so why i be dead                                           to NASA and them

school books    been where i be abnormal    say my axis sits

sideways    seasons a mess           say i always got skin dark

skin light too     say i got wandering poles         ain’t no true

north atop my head      ain’t no man make me wear words

for earth             i               be        orbit      uncommon      i

be                                      chaos                   been had an orbit     

upset ordinances                     i be on your science magazine

methane ice glossy        halo crater scars       but i still be dead

still disposable been body                                    been celestial

body   be body    so who gon tell me         i be              nothin

but rock       who gon deny     i dominate my neighborhood

a summer lesson on multiplication

like these kids multiply

                      at playgrounds after school lets out    pinball children

bump &               red rover &        run &   swing &             freeze

tag &     red light green light &    simon says

                             always more bodies baked           when sun sweats

high noon hits                 always more sweat

always more children                   more Huffy more Wilson

              thrown across Ravisloe Terrace          & hollers these boys throw

              to girls teeth sucked                              back at boys

more super soakers       sprinkler runs                   always more summer

hours always more        kids at Atkins Park for more

wood mulch splinters                bomb pop popsicle sticks

                                          & kids seek freedom before they knew freedom

               wasn’t for them               freedom wasn’t               for them              freedom

a feat for daddy’s           day off miller high life cans

               barry white through speakers freedom a feat

                              for momma to watch tv in bed all day

for momma & daddy                                                to kick kids out the house

                            & don’t come back for a few hours

just don’t go too far & make sure you check in

             every hour as if these kids wore watches or watched

sun skip             then hop                         through the hours

too busy multiplying on every block                   little siblings

new to this but in tow &              cousins staying for summer

                            & all these damn kids running

the block                more Mongoose      more Razor

              more Spalding more run it back            more running back

before streetlight           more i’m sorry mama            just a mistake

just broke neighbor’s stoop light          neighbor’s window

it wasn’t me mama i swear it wasn’t me                                 but law

                                      of multiplication says no matter how kids group

               numbers get the same result           kids get guilty

by association kids get     guilty             kids tear drop

decline invites for outside through the screen door

              or mama says can’t come outside & punishment

                            & loneliness multiplies hours   & mama says worry

                                         multiplies every time kid sets foot outdoors

says the wrong crowd                   but kids accumulate

next week next to Country Pantry        Lemonheads

packed in pockets           with a few coins           & Sour Warheads

              & Frooties & Fruit Chews      always more      kids want

always more                   always more kids on the block

             always more freedom always sugar packed

in pockets always                          another pocket of kids on 180th

                                           another pack of bikes on Idlewild Drive

these kids divide

              when anybody’s mama

                                                        says get yo asses out the street

but reassemble                          

              when she peels off                       bike wheels criss cross

                            paths                  figure eight infinities on pavement

The Alchemy of Our Uncles’ Chest Hair

That bounty curled from the convergence

              of shirt collar ornamented with figaro.

Sweat stagnates on the sternum,

                                         gilds the strands in sunlight. Our uncles

                            offer a word with a Corona,

Budweiser, or Heineken in hand

                            at the barbecue, chest strands snaked

over the neck of a tank top—reservoir

               for a stream of whiskey, tequila,

cognac that misses their lips,

              rolls down their chins. If you let them narrate—

                             like their myths of Jameson that transmutes

into hair on our chests after the booze burns

              dull in our throats—they don’t spill

                            any liquor. Our uncles forget

to mention this alchemy requires patience.

                They began to manifest

                               this magic in boyhood, days running the block

              with other boys until our grandmothers

                                           echoed their names from front stoops;

that same echo prompts the gold glow,

                                                         summer afternoon sunlight slicked

               ’round loops of our uncles chest hairs

as they turn the ribs on the grill. In their woven sandals,

                                                        they weave their stories

                             between beer sips, shots, and grown folks’ conversations.

We listen to their silver tongue tales,

               how they persuade truth to stretch

                                                         like hair fibers spread over their collars.

                              Only when their hair silvers into cuban links

do we understand how liquor can aurify

               our once-bare bodies, when we, before a mirror,

notice a single strand spirals from our chests.

Quintin Collins (he/him) is a writer, editor, and Solstice MFA Program assistant director. His work has appeared in many print and online publications, and his first full-length collection of poems, The Dandelion Speaks of Survival, is forthcoming from Cherry Castle Publishing in 2021. See more of his work on